Gaming News: Free Steam Game, Comic Con MMO News, GTA Rothbury, Women spend more on virtual goods, 38 Studios big reveal, Starcraft did not cost $100m

Happy Sunday!

This week brings lots of announcements from Comic Con, including new trailers.

EA/ Maxis also announced that they are producing a game called Darkspore which seems to have nothing at all to do with Spore, except that they claim that they were inspired by the Spore character creator. Perhaps they realised that people enjoyed playing with the character creator more than they did with the game.

Having said that, “players battle across alien worlds to save the galaxy from the mutated forces of Darkspore in a four-player co-operative and full single-player campaign” sounds just a little bit like Alien Swarm, the free 4 player co-op top down shooter which was released for free (free as in beer) along with its base code on Steam this week. (It had good reviews too, go grab a copy if that sounds like your type of game.)

But riddle me this: Does the  “build your own pet dickmonster and watch it dance” play of Spore character creator really translate into a successful “build your own weapon out of monster body parts” type of shooter? Surely a Pokemon type of “Build your cute monster and then make it fight other monsters!” game would have been more logical.

DC Universe Online launch trailer

Fans of lycra-clad men, woman and aliens with improbable body shapes look no further, the Who do you trust? DCUO trailer is here.

Is it bad if every time I saw Wonder Woman, I wished they’d put her in the new costume? Also Batman looks terrifically butch in this trailer, I prefer him with the voluminous cloak.

DCUO is due to launch in November. Hopefully we’ll soon hear much more about the game itself and how it plays.

Space Battles to feature in SWTOR

Another announcement made at Comic Con confirms that the SWTOR team plan to include space battles in their upcoming MMO. It sounds as though it will involve some kind of self contained gameplay – and there’s more information to come in next month’s PC Gamer (a magazine which has been working hard to earn MMO fans’ money recently).

Dragon Age 2 at Comic Con

Lots more news this week about Dragon Age 2, also. I can’t sum it up any better than Arbitrary, who was there at the DA2 panel:

There’s a couple of big differences which I think will prove quite interesting, but obviously which we can’t really see in a short playtest. First of all, the hero is voiced! No more silence.

Secondly, the narrative structure of the game has changed. The game covers a much longer period than Dragon Age, and is told by a couple of (not necessarily reliable) narrators – the tale of The Champion (that’s you, that is!) and who s/he was. This allows Bioware, and the player to play key points in the life of the character, with each being able to have a massive influence on the rest of the story.

The section of playable game was chosen to show off some of the fighting and a little of the dialogue, but it was pretty short. I thought it definitely looked like the combat flowed more and I liked what I heard of the voices and what I saw of the new art style. In fact, there really wasn’t much I didn’t like about the changes and I’m now really looking forward to playing the game, due out in Spring next year – in perfect time for my birthday!

More from Comic Con

Arbitrary has been filing more reports from Comic Con here and there are a few more to come, also. Lots of news there.

And a link to Super Hero Squad Online (I couldn’t get this to work in Firefox but it’s fine in IE) which sounds like a terrifically fun little kid-friendly MMO where you collect Marvel Superheroes into a team and get them to go fight for you.

GTA Rothbury

Recently in the UK we had a manhunt for an ex-prisoner who went on a shooting rampage. There was a lot of criticism about media coverage, claiming (with good justification) that they turned it into a media circus with journalists reporting next to armed police squads whilst negotiating was going on and in earshot of the subject of the manhunt, and so on.

The final stand took place in a small village called Rothbury. This is only relevant because one of the crappier UK newspapers was taken in this week by a faked screenshot showing the cover of what purported to be Rockstar’s next game – Grand Theft Auto Rothbury.

Whilst any actual gamer would not have given that even a second of thought, clearly the Daily Star has none on staff because they ran with it. They got mocked widely in the gaming press, and then Rockstar got some lawyers involved. The Star had to apologise.

Women spend more than men on virtual goods

A survey published this week shows that women spend more than men on virtual goods. As you’ll see in the link, there’s room for some queries on the survey methodology, in particular running a survey on a micro-transaction site is likely to show that users spend more on casual games than ‘traditional’ ones,  but it wouldn’t surprise me if the general trend turned out to be correct. Hopefully there will be more surveys to follow.

But this does raise the question: in an era where online games are leaning more and more heavily on ‘micro’-transactions, how will they change to lure in more women if women are actually their best customers? Or is there a way for them to get men to spend more? Will it involve guns and/or porn?

Lots of questions. You can bet that many business heads in the industry are thinking about this right now.

38 Studios reveal Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios have been teasing a reveal of their first game for many moons now, and this week they brought out a trailer and some information.

Previously known only as Project Mercury, their single player RPG has been announced as Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning (or KOAR for short.) There’s a trailer to go with the announcement, and it looks pretty sleek.

38 Studios always claimed to be about MMOs, and this single player RPG is to be a testbed for their rich game universe and background, as well as a good game in its own right. While the long long trail of hype without any supporting substance has put a lot of bloggers off, it’s hard to argue with talent like:

People working on the game
– Lead Designers: Ken Rolston (Redguard, Morrowind, Oblivion), Mark Nelson (Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3)
– Lead Narrative Designer: Erik J. Caponi (Oblivion, Fallout 3)
– Lead Systems Designer: Ian Frazier (Ultima 5: Lazarus, Titan Quest, Dawn of War: Soulstorm)

And that’s even before you include Bob Salvatore and Todd McFarlane. So either way, this has to be great news for fans of single player open world RPGs. It isn’t due to be released until Autumn 2011 though.

No, Starcraft did not cost $100m

Last week, I noted rumours that SC2 had cost $100m to make. It turns out that the commenter who said “no way” was absolutely right. Starcraft 2 did not cost $100m, the Wall Street Journal got its figures mixed up and had to print a retraction.

Day One: San Diego Comic Con 2010

Zombies at Comic Con 2010

Three days with no sleep standing in line for the Tron panel ...

It’s been a crazy day and a half, since I’m rolling the preview night into this write-up. Preview night, for me, basically means having a look around the Exhibit Hall, meeting people I wanted to try and catch and getting the atmosphere soaked up before the real work starts. In other words, I didn’t go to watch the actual preview this year, which was the TV show Nikita. Not that interested.

We all got Warner bags this year with our registration stuff. They’re huge, and they have different designs on and people used to queue at the Warner booth for them, so it’s been nice this year to just have one handed over. My friend got Human Target and I got a Batman one, so I grabbed the Human Target one, while he engaged in a game of bag-trading that saw him work through Clash of the Titans, Batman, Scooby Doo, Chuck, Fringe and finally The Big Bang Theory. But I’m happy with my Human Target one. The Exhibit Hall is huge, it’s just huge. And it runs the gamut from comic artists and book publishers, to games companies, along with the obvious film and TV presence. And people queue. They queue for swag, they queue to buy exclusive items, and they queue for autographs. And I hate queuing! So I go pick up the easy swag on the first night and see what else I might want. I did score lots of goodies from publishers, including a copy of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones, and a bizarre book-related jigsaw. Also a Twilight iPhone cover.. hrrm, I shouldn’t mention that, right?

In all fairness, this year I wanted to check out games more, but they didn’t seem to all be ready to rock on preview night. So I might have to head back there. City of Heroes: Going Rogue had some terminals up, but no way to bag the in-game ghoul costume (and since I don’t play the game, in-game play didn’t really go it for me, but it looked pretty). DCUO was there (for the person who asked), but I didn’t check it out – they had lovely lanyards and my friend snagged one somehow.. we shall return. Then we went to see Super Hero Squad Online, as I’d promised to go hug the CM (long story, follow twitter ;p). My friend took the controls while we chatted and I have to say, I’m totally sold on it. Yes, it’s kiddie, but it’s gorgeous and the housing is honestly the most FUN MMO housing I’ve seen – complete with Hulk throwing sofas around the room to let off steam. So, that was a bit of a surprise to me, only because I’d never really considered it.

So we wandered, we got swag, we met friends from last year, and then we went to check if there was a line for Tron the next day. There was. And I’m a fool. So we took spots and settled in for a freezing night in a line. At least there was cover this year, as it rained. Also the Hilton sent us blankets, pillows and water. Was still freezing though!!! So let’s ignore the night in line, it’s not that interesting, but I had excellent company which helped.

And it was Thursday, the first full day of the con and I was near the front of the Hall H queue. First up was Megamind, a superhero/villain 3-D animated film starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, oh, and Brad Pitt. The first three showed up, with Ferrell in costume. I’m not a huge fan of any of them and they didn’t disappoint, I found it quite a stodgy panel, with nothing quite as funny as they wanted. But, and it’s a big but, the film looks awesome and fun and is definitely on my radar now (not least cos they gave us all watches!).

Next up was Tron: Legacy which was as awesome as expected. They showed 8 mins of footage, they showed the new trailer, the entire main cast were there and made interesting comments (the panel is almost certainly on YouTube by now, so honestly, I’m not going into details). They recorded us yelling De-Rez, and other terms and they’re hoping to insert it in the film, so whee, I might be in Tron: Legacy!! That’s a cool give-away and a half. But when they packed up to go early, it was obvious Disney had more in store for us. Firstly we got a 3-D Johnny Depp Pirates teaser trailer, the next one will be about Fountain of Youth, and he’s so great in character, again, I know the footage is online, so go seek!

Then, Guillermo Del Toro came out to reveal his next project is Haunted Mansion for Disney. And they’re rebooting it, forgetting Eddie Murphy ever existed and making it scary and cool. Hrrm. I’m not a massive Disney kid, Haunted Mansion to me was an ok ride in the theme park… so colour me a little disappointed that he left The Hobbit for this. But – the first 999 in the hall got a signed, numbered Haunted Mansion poster (signed by the artist), so yay for swag?!

We left the Hall post Tron and went to find food before heading back to pick up our Haunted Mansion swag. I had wanted to dash to the 38 Studios reveal, but frankly I hadn’t eaten in over 12h and I was HUNGRY. Got to see the Westboro Church protest and counter-protest and headed back to the Convention Center. I did manage to catch the last 15 mins of the panel, but mostly when they were wrapping up. Luckily they have the game’s website up now, so all the info will be there. There was a reason I headed to that room though, and that was for the other panel that was on my must-see list – a Quantum Leap retrospective. But first I saw through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force panel, which was frankly a little bit awkward. Still, it was over and people enjoyed it!

Then I settled down for an hour with Scott Bakula discussing the impact of Quantum Leap with someone from TV Guide. It started off with the show’s credit sequence which almost made me well up and then Bakula took to the stage. He got a standing ovation, which both surprised and pleased me, and I totally joined in. And it was just a magical hour of him speaking and clips from the show, including the final minutes of it. Shockingly, perhaps, he annouced that a Quantum Leap movie was ‘on’ again and that producers were getting on-board and it should all go ahead this time. He did say that he and Dean Stockwell would be in it, but not as the main characters anymore. I’m not surprised at that, but glad that the project is underway and they all seem to be happy about it and on board to star in it regardless of characters!

And then I went to see Dragon Age II…

((If you’d like to see another take on Day 1, Geeks are Sexy went to some of the same panels as Arb but also went to the Scott Pilgrim one instead of Quantum Leap.))

Our Woman in San Diego

With no expense spared, Arbitrary is in San Diego at the moment to attend Comic Con. She generously offered to write about the con and her experiences when she gets a chance. (I think my editorial suggestion was “just write about whatever.”)

So if there’s anything in particular you’d like to ask about, feel free to suggest it in comments here.